Monday, December 8, 2008

I have this friend, who...

Years of survey work has taught researchers that people misrepresent themselves on surveys. How do we accurately portrary people through research then?  My colleague Jayson Lusk and I have started accumulating evidence (references below) that instead of asking people, "what would you do...", we should ask them, "what would the average American do...".  When people answer this second question, they are really telling you more about themselves than they do in the first question.  

It is kinda like, when someone begins a question with, "I have this friend, who...", you know they are really asking for themselves.

I recently learned from Tyler Cowen's superb book Discover Your Inner Economist that people are sometimes more rational about choice when it concerns other people.  He states, "The more personal the choice, the more likely that fear drives out reason" (page 129).  For example, people make more rational choices about whether to take a vaccine when making the choice for others than themselves.

Lusk, Jayson L. and F. Bailey Norwood. “Bridging the Gap between Laboratory Experiments and Naturally Occurring Markets.” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Forthcoming

Lusk, J. L. and F. B. Norwood. “An Inferred Valuation Method.” Land Economics. Forthcoming.

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